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Large Project To Create an Improved TB Vaccine

A picture of a vaccine.
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Researchers from the University of Leicester are among those hoping to create an improved vaccine to fight tuberculosis as part of a €9 million Euro project.

The university forms part of a 19-strong consortium known as TBVAC-HORIZON which has just been awarded the funding to boost research and development into tuberculosis, specifically by looking at lung immunity and the ways in which the infection is able to evade the immune response.

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Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection which spreads by inhaling tiny droplets from the lungs of an infected person. It can affect any part of the body but mainly affects the lungs and remains one of the most devastating infectious diseases worldwide, killing over 4,000 people every day.

Prevention through the development of improved vaccines remains a priority for the World Health Organisation. Currently only one vaccine exists for TB and this is predominantly given to infants and young children to help protect them from severe forms of infection.

Professor Andrea Cooper from the University’s Leicester Tuberculosis Research Group (LTBRG), is among the lead scientists for the project which will span the next four years. 

She said: “By combining forces we aim to look in-depth at the mechanisms of immune responses to infection in the lung. By identifying biomarkers for this we can improve vaccines as well improving monitoring of vaccine immunity.

“The LTBRG already brings together scientists and academic clinicians to focus on overcoming tuberculosis at a local and national level, but this project will bring expertise from across Europe together to advance our research even further.”

Funding for the project has come from The Horizon Europe programme. Among the other institutes assisting with the project is the University of Oxford and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, while the Tuberculosis Vaccine Initiative (TBVI) will coordinate it. 

Professor Helen McShane from University of Oxford said: “I am enormously excited about the science we plan to perform within TBVAC-HORIZON, which spans basic and translational science with an interdisciplinary and integrated approach. This work will advance understanding of protective immunity, particularly in the target organ, the lung, and in parallel improve the development of novel TB vaccine candidates.

“As with previous TBVI-led consortia, partners will work together to deliver excellent science that will secure Europe’s leading role in the development of a more effective TB vaccine.” 

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